Bentonsport National Historic District – Bentonsport, Iowa
Tucked into the southeastern area of Iowa is the charming community of Bentonsport where in the 1940′s the river town was a busy port-of-call for the Des Moines River steamers to dock. The village was the first stop for a number of people that wanted to come to the area to see if this was the place they wanted to settle down or to start either a business or farming. The village is nestled into the hills with the trees giving it a special elegance, even after all these years.
Some of the buildings in the village were built by the Mormon craftsmen that were headed west. Still standing they give you a glimpse of the pride taken in the original construction process that made the village one that would withstand the test of time and the occasional flooding of the river.
While you are visiting the area take a few minutes and stroll across the century-old iron bridge and think about how progressive this construction project would have been when it was first built. Sitting on the banks for the river, watching the water flow by as it has for longer than you can even imagine will bring a certain level of joy to you and peace to your mind.
The village had the first paper mill in Iowa, there were also grist, saw, linseed oil, and woolen mills. It was important to have these mills close to process the crops from the area and to be able to ship the finished products out on the river boats that were always coming up the river. For a number of years Bentonsport was also a terminus of the Des Moines Valley Railroad and was the end of the line for many years.
When the river became un-navigable after the lock and dam system was abandoned the community lost a number of its businesses and is now a beautiful, quite village filled with memories and wonderful, welcoming people. With less than 40 residents to keep the village going.
Many of the original buildings remain so it is easy to see how life was in the 1800′s when it was thriving. The character of the community, the charm of the buildings and its unique place in history has encouraged some artists to locate in the community and create things of beauty, many in the fashion of the past. There are specialty shops to buy the products, some of which you have been able to watch being created. The village has a number of festivals, workshops and musical entertainment regularly for the visitor to enjoy, quite an accomplishment for a community of this size.
You may want to visit the Iron and Lace Shop while you are in town and see the hand made original works of art in Pottery, Weaving and Ironwork. Each item in the shop is hand made by the owners who love to create things of beauty for you to enjoy.
If you want to stay in town you may want to stay in the 163 year old Mason House Inn Bed & Breakfast. The hotel was built in 1846 by Mormon craftsman for those coming to the area on the steamboats. It was also a station on the Underground Railroad as were many of the buildings in this area of the state. You can even stay in a caboose while in town. The Mason House has a real railroad caboose from the Roscoe, Snyder & Pacific Railway line from Texas as one of the options for rooms.
Location: on Scenic Byway J-40 between Bonaparte and Keosauqua, just 5 miles from Highway 1. The drive to the village is through beautiful hills and valleys that will certainly be a drive you will enjoy. You are welcome any time of the year, there is always something to see and do but most of the celebrations are held during the spring, summer and fall.